Community Involvement Makes a Sustainable Difference

Kogod School of Business MS in sustainability management student uses her design background to educate and motivate the AU and larger DC community through local internships.

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Kogod MS in sustainability management student Yunqian (Gabby) Li

Kogod School of Business MS in sustainability management student Yunqian (Gabby) Li was initially drawn to Kogod for the customizable approach to earning a business degree.

“I was also intrigued by AU’s campus sustainability commitment. Seeing how AU leads on sustainability compared to other schools reassured my decision to apply,” says Li.

Inspired by the work that the AU community carried out over the years to become the first carbon-neutral university in the US, Li put her sustainability education to use last spring by taking on an active role in planning and implementing the initiatives of AU’s zero waste office.

Li joined the zero waste office team as the communication and outreach lead intern and started developing social media and outreach strategies, providing design support, and collaborating with fellow interns.

The overall goal of the zero waste office is to manage and minimize campus waste."

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Gabby Li

Kogod MS in sustainability management student

"The office tracks and audits waste metrics, develops strategies to improve sustainable purchasing, and engages with the AU community through education,” explains Li.

The Keep Compost Clean project was one of the zero waste office’s most significant projects during the spring semester. The goal of this project is to minimize compost contamination rates. Li worked with students and staff to design prototypes of bin lids with different shapes and graphics, hoping to educate students and guide should and shouldn’t be composted.

“When waste isn’t sorted correctly, we end up contributing more to the landfills. If contamination is found in a compost bin, the entire bag must be thrown away with the regular trash to prevent further contamination,” explains Li. As such, the zero waste office encourages people to think about the idea of “When in doubt, throw it out!” This can help avoid contamination of an otherwise compostable bag of waste.

“Students responded well to the graphic designs on bin lids,” says Li. In the fall, the zero waste office and the Keep Compost Clean project team will assess the bin lid prototypes' data, make adjustments, and test new bin locations on campus.  

While Li is passionate about contributing to AU’s ongoing sustainability efforts, she hopes to work within the built-environment industry upon graduation. “I want to continue focusing on finding creative approaches to sustainability,” says Li. 


Sustainability is multi-faceted; it connects many dots and extends far beyond the environment. Sustainability can drastically improve a building’s efficiency, people’s well-being, business growth, and is a topic at the center of social justice.”

Yunqian (Gabby) Li Square

Gabby Li

Kogod MS in sustainability management student

Li is currently using her background in design and sustainability to make a difference in the larger DC community through her summer internship with Gensler. At Gensler, Li focuses on sustainable building projects and hopes to learn more about business change management in transition to a more inclusive and people-centered work environment.

“I strongly believe in the benefits that community involvement can bring to education. I highly recommend that students participate with campus organizations and offices in addition to off-campus opportunities that aid the greater DC and global community,” says Li.

“Kogod’s MS in sustainability management program encourages students to explore and flourish. Don’t be afraid to dive into new topics; rest assured, your classmates will also bring many interesting points of view to class!” says Li.